15 Reasons to Sprint More This Year

SprintA couple weeks ago, I gave you 17 reasons why you should walk more this year, citing dozens of studies in my attempt to convince you that walking is a healthy, effective endeavor for everyone and anyone. But it’s not the only thing you should be doing if you can help it. If you have the ability, I strongly believe that you should also be sprinting – at least (and maybe at most) once a week. The effects of regular sprinting on your health, your body composition, your fitness, your strength, and your susceptibility to disease are so impressive that it’d be foolish not to. I’ve said it before and even enshrined it in the Primal Laws to accentuate its importance, but here it is again: you should sprint more this year.

Why, though? Let’s hear some specific, science-based reasons to get up and move as fast as possible:

1. It preferentially burns body fat.

Weight loss isn’t just about eliminating any old kind of body mass. It’s about losing body fat while preserving or even gaining muscle and bone. Sprinting appears to be excellent at eliminating body fat without the negative impact on muscle mass commonly seen with excessive endurance training. A recent study found that a single sprint session can increase post-exercise fat oxidation by 75%. Not that this is a surprise, but even in young adults with an intellectual disability, sprinting improves body composition by reducing body fat.

2. It’s anabolic (that means it can increase muscle mass and strength).

An acute bout of sprinting increased dihydrotestosterone in healthy young men, while in overweight young men, a sprinting program increased lean mass in the legs and trunk. (In one study, men and women did three 30 second all-out sprint intervals on the stationary bike with 20 minutes of rest in between each sprint. Muscle biopsies were taken from their quads and analyzed for markers of protein synthesis – how muscle gets laid down.

3. It’s even more anabolic in women than men.

Yeah, yeah, you don’t wanna “get all big and bulky.” I know. But ladies, it won’t happen to you unless you’re somehow using an exogenous source of anabolic hormones to reach supraphysiological levels that you’d otherwise never reach naturally. More lean mass for you means more “tone,” less body fat, and more strength. In the previously mentioned study, female protein synthesis was up by 222%, male by 43%.

4. It makes you better at accessing body fat during other types of exercise.

Sprinting primes the substrate utilization pump, so to speak, for other activities. In one study, a two week program of cycling sprint interval training increased the rate of (body) fat oxidation (and decreased the rate of glycogen utilization) during subsequent lower intensity sessions in women.

5. It builds new mitochondria.

The basic function of our mitochondria is to extract energy from nutrients to produce ATP, the standard energy currency of our body. More mitochondria, more power available to our brain and our body, more fuel burned, more energy produced. It’s a generally good idea to have healthy, numerous mitochondria, and scientists are constantly trying to figure out how to preserve or increase their numbers because so many degenerative diseases are characterized by malfunctioning mitochondria. Well, sprinting is one way to make more. A single bout of 4×30 second all-out cycling sprints activated mitochondrial biogenesis in the skeletal muscle of human subjects in one study. Shorter sprints work, too. In fact, a program consisting of three sets of 5 4-second treadmill sprints with 20 seconds of rest in between each sprint, done three times per week for four weeks up-regulated molecular signaling associated with mitochondrial biogenesis.

6. It even works if you go slowly.

Allow me to expand on that statement: it even works if you go slowly because you’re pushing a heavy weighted sled. If that doesn’t sound like an advantage to you, consider someone who can’t run a flat-out sprint on a flat surface because of prior joint injuries. Pushing a heavy sled (or a car) slows the person down, thus reducing the joint impact, without making the exercise any less intense. Research shows that heavy sled pushing is extremely effective.

7. It’s more efficient than endurance training.

Obviously, sprint training takes less time to do than endurance training. But did you know it’s just as effective in many regards in a fraction of the time? Sprinting three times a week (4-6 times per session) was just as good as spending five days a week cycling for 40-60 minutes at improving whole body insulin sensitivity, arterial elasticity, and muscle microvascular density.

8. It takes way less time than you think.

A 30 second all out sprint is “just” 30 seconds, but it’s a hellish 30 seconds. A single hill sprint isn’t too bad, nor are two or three, but when you hit the eight, nine, ten sprint range, it gets rough. You will feel it after. Still better than slogging it out for an hour and half, mind you. I get the sense that most people think for any training to be effective, it has to hurt – even if only for twenty seconds or so. Actually, when you sprint, extremely brief intervals work very well. In this study, for example, subjects cycle-sprinted for a mere 5 seconds at a time and actively rested for 55 seconds in between sprints (that’s where you’re just casually pedaling on the cycle, equivalent to walking after a running sprint); that was enough to increase the maximum amount of work they were able to perform in 30 seconds. Instead of walking down the beach, I’ll sometimes traverse it in ultra-short sprint intervals: sprint for 5 seconds, walk for 20, sprint for 5, and so on. I don’t really even get winded doing this. Or if there’s a short (<10 meters) but steep hill, I’ll sprint up it, walk down, and repeat about a dozen times.

9. It’s a good excuse to get to the beach.

Doing your sprints on sand makes them more effective (and harder). A recent study found that sprint interval training sessions performed on sand resulted in better performances in subsequent training bouts, beating out grass as a training surface. I’ve also found that beach sprints enable post-training water plunges, regardless of water temperature.

10. It works for overweight people.

Sprinting may be the most daunting exercise of all for overweight people. How can moving that fast be safe or healthy? Well, there’s evidence that sprinting is extremely effective in this population. In a 2012 study (PDF), a group of overweight female students followed a 12-week sprint program consisting of 8-16 200 meter sprints done three days a week. After the program, body fat and body weight had gone down significantly, insulin sensitivity had improved by 100%, and V02max had increased. Another study, this time in overweight/obese men, found that a sprinting program (this time on a cycle) increased fat burning at rest while decreasing carb burning at rest – exactly what an overweight person needs to achieve to start burning body fat and become fat-adapted. The men also lost significant amounts of waist and hip fat.

11. It works for elderly people.

Oldsters needn’t stick with 2.5 pound dumbbells and “stretching workouts.” They can derive great benefit from high intensity interval training. Sure, they might go a bit slower than the rest of us. They might do better on exercise bikes than tracks. But they can still do it.

12. It improves glucose control and insulin sensitivity.

Diabetics, take heed. Sprint training improves insulin sensitivity, improves hyperglycemia in type 2 diabetes, and lowers the postprandial glucose response in diabetics. You gotta start doing it if you’re not already.

13. It lowers high blood pressure.

Okay, while you’re sprinting, you’ll probably have sky-high blood pressure. That’s okay, that’s just an acute spike – it happens with any type of exercise. Overall, sprint training appears to have the most potential of any exercise modality for the long term resolution of hypertension.

14. It’s safe for people with heart disease.

Heart disease patients interested in improving their cardiovascular health are often told to start jogging or something similarly unpleasant. Why not sprinting? We already know it’s more effective against heart disease risk factors, and high intensity interval training has been shown to be safe in heart disease patients, particularly when they keep the intensity high and the duration low (15 seconds or thereabouts). Check with your doctor first, of course, just to be safe (but prepare yourself for the “jogging” lecture).

15. It comes in many forms.

When people hear “sprinting,” they think of 100 meter flat sprints on the track. Those are effective, sure, but they’re not the only way you can reap the benefits of sprint training. You can run hills (easier on the joints and more intense overall). You can cycle (easier on the joints and proven to work in dozens of sprinting studies). You can do it in the pool (either running in water or swimming). You can row or use the elliptical. Heck, if you loathe “cardio” of any kind you can probably get sprint-esque effects from lifting weights really quickly (think doing a set of 20 back squats or something similar). Upper body interval training works for general fitness in elderly hip replacement patients, for example. There’s something for everyone, which means there are almost no excuses not to sprint.

That’s what I’ve got. There are probably more reasons to sprint, but I think the 15 I discussed are a good start. So get to it!

What about you guys? Why do you sprint? What are you hoping to get out of it? What have you already gotten out of it? Let us know in the comment section!


About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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166 thoughts on “15 Reasons to Sprint More This Year”

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  1. YES! There’s a hill by my house, and I love to jog to it for a warm up, and then do 5-8 hill sprints. So many benefits – loved reading this as even more reinforcement 🙂

    1. Great post today. I can use the dozen or so reasons I didn’t know already with the various nay-sayers who’ve always got a reason not to take up sprint sessions.

      I get sprints in when walking the dog….who loves it more than I do! I also get them in on “weights day” at the gym, finishing my session with tabata training on the treadmill. I also use the spin bikes and watt bikes to do exactly the same.

      1. Actually – I walk my dogs at least 6 miles per day; am going to incorporate sprints too! Thanks for the tip.

  2. Does swimming sprint increase muscular mass/rips the same benefits as the dry-land sprint, because of the different way the body works in water/thermic effect?

    And, how do you know you are sprinting, not just trying really, really hard? Is there any objective measure that separates sprint from HIT?

    1. Can’t tell you about swimming but aqua “aerobics” works great for me. Aerobics in parentheses because it is mostly sprints, resistance and flexibility. The instructors call the super fast movement “sprints.”

      If your tongue is hanging out and you are gasping for air, it is sprints, even if you are walking 1.5 mph in your walker instead of your usual 1 mph.

      If you can close your mouth, let alone talk, it isn’t sprints.

      1. When body is immersed in water, different muscle development laws act than on land, that causes different muscular profile. So, my question, again, is does swim sprints increase muscular mass more, less or the same as the land sprints do?

        Also, since legs has limited contribution, is that a better way to increase upper body mass only (when you do not want overdeveloped runner quad and calf?)

        1. Leida,

          Sprinting has nothing to do with which muscles you are using, at least not in regards to the benefits Mark discussed. It is about two things. Intensity and stress. Whether you are doing sprints on a rowing machine, a swimming pool or running a hill, it is the pushing your body with maximum intensity while slurping energy out of your muscles that causes the positive adaptations.


        2. I did swimming sprints for several years, and do running sprints today. Its not so much a question of more or less muscle development, more a question of which muscles. Running sprints really work the glutes, quads and hamstrings. Look at any olympic sprinter and you’ll see what gets worked.

          OTOH, swimming sprints is much more shoulder work. Yes, your legs get worked, particularly in breaststroke sprints, but your glutes won’t fire anything like they do when running.

          So if you want to go for upper body mass, swim.

    2. I have a swimming protocol which finishes with 6x50m laps, all as fast as possible with 30″-60″ rest between each lap. That’s sprinting!

  3. I agree!

    Humans were not “born to run”, they were born to sprint.

    Imagine how much fewer knee replacements there would be because of
    1. less mechanical wear-and-tear
    2. leaner bodies

    “Born to run” and “carb loading” go together. Both are nice fables.

    1. I strongly disagree. There are sprinters and lopers and shufflers, and everything in between — why should any running style be less legitimate than any other?

      Some people are “born to run”, and some are born to sprint/jump/climb/swim/ride/fight/dance, whatever. It doesn’t mean the person “born to run” can’t sprint, or vice versa. It just means he or she is probably BETTER at running than at sprinting as a result of body and personality type.

      I sprint wherever, whenever, because it’s exhilarating, and because I can, but I would never call myself a “sprinter”.

    2. Then why I can run a fair bit at an easy tempo and do not get injured, but if I sprint and run fast, my knee becomes unstable and hurts?

      Sprints, at least running sprints are not inherently safer than the longer, easier runs.

      1. I’ve done a fair bit of middle distance running in my time and have never been any good at sprint running. I have arthritis in one knee from an injury in my teens and the impact from sprinting was unbearable.

        That was until I started bare-footing (VFFs); forefoot striking almost completely eliminates joint impact & I have found that the strengthening of my muscles has enabled me to improve stability and thus my sprint running form.

        I find if I ramp up from a jog in a smooth, gradual manner it’s a lot easier on the joints.

        I still prefer longer easy runs but I quiet enjoy sprinting now too.

    3. I believe the generations of hunters who survived by persistence hunting their dinner to death over an 8+ hour timeframe would beg to differ about humans not being “born to run.” If you haven’t done so yet, read the book of the same title.

      1. Absolutely! Stealth and patience have always been the way of the hunter-gatherer. Only a lunatic Grok would try to run down his prey by sprinting.

        In my post “Walking with Lions” the video shows African hunters walking up to the lions’ dinner, cutting off a hunk, and WALKING away.

        Because of the effort and energy expenditure involved, I think sprinting was only done when necessary (fleeing a predator, charging an enemy, etc.), or for the sheer fun of it.

    1. First – I’ve done my share of KB swings. I just completed Dan John’s 10,000 kb challenge. I enjoy them and think they are an incredible workout tool.

      That said – KB swings do not feel the same as all out sprints. I use running and rowing sprints as that’s what I’m used to and enjoy. KB swings done explosively both from the bottom and the top are hard work, just different.

      KB swings are great. I love them, but try going all out springs intervals or rowing intervals and feel the difference. Airdyne intervals are also evil beasts.

      1. If you really want to kick your glutes and your lungs try adding body weight squats between sets of swings – just do them fast and with form.

    2. You can’t really swing much faster than you already do and still keep good, safe form. Think about combining them with sprints if you can. Try the StrongFirst 3 getups and 10 swings left hand, 3 getups 10 swings right hand. Then add a 30 second sprint on the treadmill. My treadmill takes about 20 seconds to get up to speed, so I go for 50 seconds. 8-10 sets is plenty!

      1. After I was reading, was gonna add that KB swings are a great alternative to running sprints. They improve your recovery time big time. I see brad added in the TGU ( Turkish get up) which engages the whole body. Also great warm up before doing anything.

        30sec swing, 30 sec plank, 60 sec rest, for 20 min is a great workout for cardio and also a good fat burner.

        Look up anything by pavel the russian or Geoff neupert both real good KB resources.

        1. I haven’t seen any improvement in my recovery time since I added swings to my workout several months ago. It may depend on where you are coming from – I’m a runner, so the incremental improvement would have to be from a fairly high baseline.
          I’ve also read that you have to be swinging fairly heavy to get the sprint effect. I am up to 24kg, one-handed, and that may not be enough to get the anaerobic benefit. I can’t go higher until I can convince my gym to buy a heavier KB 🙁

  4. Thank you for this post that focuses on sprinting, Mark! 🙂 Need to get as much info as I can, I think – I want to get more confident. Along with sprint sessions for fitness, I’m also trying to tackle sprint sessions to actually get faster at sprinting, because I’d like to be a sprinter on the track and field team.

    1. I would argue it isn’t the type of running activity that has created the difference between those bodies, but rather that different body types are better suited to certain running activities.

      There are lots of tall people in the NBA. Not because playing basketball makes you taller, but because tall people have an advantage and are therefore more successful and recognised in that field.

  5. Google images for “sprinter vs marathoner body” and be amazed!

    1. ixquick.com instead of google. Much better search engine and greater fidelity with results.

      1. Thanks very much for the link to this search engine. I had no idea it existed and it is a welcome alternative to big brother.

    2. OK, I am convinced! Definitely going to sprint more this year… Those pictures are frightening.

    3. So, I googled. I think my favorite comparison was between the cheetah and the tiger. Sprints work in the wild also!

  6. Every 2 days, I do intermittent sprint on my stationary bike. I cycle for 5 minutes, then sprint for 10 seconds at half strength of the tension, then 20 seconds at full strength of the tension. I throttled back for 90 seconds, then start again. I do until I reach 15 minutes. Is this qualifying as a “sprint” effort or intermittent? I am a bit confused.

    1. I sprint no more than twice per week. Because of winter weather I am currently “sprinting” using a stationary bike as well. I am a 53 year old male and quite fit. In terms of tension / level just select what you’re comfortable with. I warm up for 3 minutes then go all out for 30 seconds followed by 90 seconds of slow cycling repeating this 8 times with a short cool down when finished for a total time of 20 minutes (only 4 minutes of all out effort). I always get my butt of the bike seat during the sprint portion (a couple of inches for sure). During the final 3-4 sprints my heart reaches its maximum rate and a little more for a guy of my age and fitness level. It’s a great workout. I love it! Although when the weather permits I’ll be at the soccer field sprinting in my vibram five fingers.

  7. Willing to look to add spriting to our walking – 24,000 steps in a seven day period,thanks for the foot work if you will – mark.

  8. Sprinter bodies = caveman bodies.

    I am a marathon runner and while training, I throw in sprints ..from telephone pole to telephone pole…. our term is ‘Fartlek’.

    leida…I believe sprinting is running as fast as you can.

    1. As fast as you can is by definition subjective. Fear of falling and injury and perceived exertion means it is never going to be a maximum effort. maximum effort is induced by external pressure, like competition and danger… so then you drop to HIT (really, really intense) from the ‘an all out’ definition. Does HIT has the same benefits as sprint, or do our fast runs are always too slow to gain the benefits that were outlined in the studies? Like those participants, where they are doing what they thought were all out, or did they have the researcher standing there and pushing them?

      1. i hate sprints. wouldn’t do them for money. love doing jumpsquats with added weight though. which is just as brutal in HIIT terms.

  9. When it’s cold outside and icy, I like to do burpee sprints.

    Be careful doing the beach sprints…….once you get some sand up there, well……you know.

  10. I like Doug Mcguff’s philosophy on super slow training to maximum fatigue to fulfill some of the same effects. Can this sub for sprinting?

    1. My hypothesis: Super slow training will utilize your slow twitch muscles; sprinting, your fast twitch. Not to mention totally different breathing patterns. Either way you can be very tired at the end of either.

      1. Read “body by science.” HIT slow training recruits all muscle types.

        1. That’s what it says in Mark’s e-fitness book too. I just pulled it up to double check. It says “running sprints improves the endurance capacity in all muscle fibers, not just the fast ones, while low-intensity aerobic exercise only targets the slow twitch fibers.”

          Mind you, a bit earlier in the section, it says “Fast twitch fibers regulate powerful, explosive movements—stuff like Lifting Heavy Things and Sprinting Once in a While” So, in theory, one could still be exercising the fast twitch muscles if they lift heavy things regularly. But I’m not sure that you could properly replace all the benefits from sprinting by lifting heavy things and super slow training to maximum fatigue.

  11. Last fall I found a Sunday morning pick-up Ultimate game with a good bunch of folks. I found that even though I was running at least 5K every day, I was not at all in shape for Ultimate! Tons of sprinting playing Ultimate!!

    So I dropped the 5K & only run a mile to warm up then so 30-40 second sprints till I run outa time. This is all on the treadmill because it’s currently -1F outside & icey.

    Hopefully I will be ready for Ultimate come March (or April).

  12. Sprinting is something that I did for a while, kinda quit, but need to start doing again. I could definitely see that it was beneficial. I just need to get back to doing it. Pushing a car or a heavy sled & getting similar results sounds interesting. I might have to try that to switch things up a bit. Thanks again.

  13. I do sprints once a week. What’s the upper limit of sprinting, per week?

    1. I’ve read that if you’re doing it right, you couldn’t possibly sprint more than 3 times a week because you’re muscles cannot recover fast enough.

  14. Alright Mark you sold me. Time to get back to sprinting, I’ve been slacking!

    The one additional aspect I like about sprinting is that the range of motion used, is hard to get elsewhere!

  15. Love sprinting. Would like to find an equivalent upper body “sprint”.

    1. I agree. An upper body companion workout is a great idea. BTW, I love sprinting!

      1. Burpees. They hit your shoulders, chest and core. There’s a curve (I’m still on it!) to get to the point where heart-rate not strength is the limiting factor, but they definitely tick the intensity box

        1. They also hit your knees and back — and not in a good way.

          Burpees were never meant to be done at high reps or as a regular part of a fitness regimen. They were designed for testing purposes, or, as Bonza Bodies’ Jamie Atlas so succinctly writes: “The burpee is an exercise created and designed to be done as a test for a short number of repetitions to predict a soldier’s ability to prevent lead poisoning.” 🙂

      1. I think that counts. I have been going all out on a heavy bag or a reflex bag for 7 – 10, 30 second intervals once a week for the last year. I sometimes alternate with sprinting every other week. It’s a great way to condition upper and lower body.

        1. Especially if someone has any lower body injury – even if they use a wheelchair – punches are an awesome cardiovascular workout.

    2. I think that’s where the “heavy sled pushing” comes into it, although the study mentioned is actually about “towing” rather than pushing — towing/pulling being the easier of the two.

      If you want a good whole-body sprint workout that requires a minimum amount of space — but does require a partner — check out Furious Pete’s attempt at a Sumo drill called “butsukari-geiko”. He makes a good first attempt, but his stance is waaaay too narrow, and he tries to muscle in with his upper body rather than driving forward from the hips.

      He looks pretty decent in a loin cloth though. 😉

    3. How about on a rowing machine? Usually more of a full-body effort, but you can certainly alter your technique if you’re looking for upper-body only.

      The one I use has a 500m with 1 min rest setting – about 2 mins on/1 min rest – a few of those at max effort will put you on the floor quite nicely.

    4. Try running as fast as you possibly can without moving your arms…

      When I do running sprints my legs, core, shoulders, arms, and back are stressed to the limit.

  16. I live in SD, on a farm, in the country. There has been a blizzard and high winds most of the time for the last month or so. I don’t think sprints are going to work right now for me. Could you maybe repost something like this when I can go out side.

    1. Debi, I live in the snowy north too. I finally broke down and bought a reasonably priced bike trainer that I can put my road bike on to do sprints during winter. At least I get to do sprints, and when warmer weather returns the trainer is pretty small to store away, unlike a real stationary bike. I like the variety of bike sprints in winter and hill running sprints the rest of the year.

    2. Do you have access to a school gymanisum or an Indoor basketball court? Suicides and 17’s are grueling sprint based drills (17’s = run the baseline 17 times in a minute)

    3. I live in one of the snowiest places in the world in upstate NY. For my sprinting in the winter I do jump roping …specifically double jumps. Do about 300 of those in different intervals and you will get a good sprint workout.

    4. In the w/inter I run up and down stairs (5 x 10 flights up and down) with 45 sec rests in between. By the end you are ready to throw up 🙂

  17. So, how many times per week should we be sprinting?? In the opening, it says “at least (and maybe at most) once a week”. Can you clarify what is best? Thanks!

  18. I find sprinting to be one of the most efficient forms of exercise I do – a big bang from a time/benefit perspective. It’s been my experience that HILL sprints are much safer and more effective than sprinting on flat ground. Even if you are highly conditioned it can be pretty easy to pull a hamstring or quad doing a 90%+ sprint on flat ground. And most people don’t have much experience with proper sprinting technique to begin with. The steeper the hill the less chance you have of pulling anything and it requires little to no warm-up or stretching beforehand. I also wouldn’t recommend going at much more than 90% effort – just find a steep hill and you’ll get all the “intensity” you could possible want. For me, I find that my sweet spot is about 15 seconds of sustained hill sprinting – anything longer and my speed and form fall off too much. This requires matching up the length, pitch and surface of the hill to meet my objectives. No need to turn it into a science project, you get a feel for it pretty quickly.

    I try to sprint 4-5 times a week. I do them first thing in the morning. A good way to wake my body up and to start the day. I typically run the first couple at half or less speed just to warm up. The key for me is to not try to turn it into a sacred ritual or anything – just get out of bed and onto the hill before I can talk myself out of it. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly I go from sleepy/groggy to balls out sprinting in a matter of a couple minutes. There is no other exercise or activity I can do that gets me at peak readiness so immediately with so little preparation. In the warmer months I run on a hill at the beach (deep sand) and in the winter I run on a golf course hill. There’s nothing like a sand hill, but you have to go with what you have at hand.

  19. I sprint everyday on an eliptical. Not sure if I’m doing too much but feel good about the short time it takes and the results I’m getting. I believe I’m losing fat and retaining muscle a little better. Sprint 15 secs, rest 15 seconds for 8 cycles.

  20. I hit a weight plateau a few months ago. I’d added some consistent bodyweight training and was walking but just couldn’t seem to get it to budge. I had tried flat sprints a couple months before the plateau and HATED them. They were exhausting and killed my knees and shins.

    After searching around on some health sites I follow, I decided to try hill sprints. They are also awful albeit without all the joint crushing. I’ve been doing them 1 – 2 times a week since and am about 10 lbs. beyond that plateau and still making progress (although there isn’t much progress left to make in terms of fat burning!).

  21. I love the endorphins coursing thru my body about a half hour after sprinting. It usually lasts for a few hours too. Perfect post for the day…it’s also my sprinting day. Rain, wind, snow or sun!

  22. What are some alternatives for people that live in colder climates, don’t have a access to a stationary bike or indoor track? Something we could do at home on days we’re not doing push ups, squats, pull ups, planks, etc. Would jumping rope have a similar effect?

    1. I second this question: it’s so icy on the roads and sidewalks where I live during winter (thanks to frequent snow and even more frequent freeze-thaw cycles) that it’s dangerous just stepping out the door of a car or building!

    2. That’s my problem, too. I live in the Alps.
      During winter I replace sprints with upstair all out sprints (up to the 10th floor) or other on-place HIIT exercises like tabata burpees and tabata iron mikeys, which I can safely do in my living room (V5F optional but highly recommended 😉 ).

      1. Thanks for this response! I had to Google the iron mikes; now that I’ve seen them I recognize them from old Bodyrock workouts and they’re certainly killer. Along with the burpees it seems like a great way to “sprint.” Or to be honest, to start sprinting, since I’m currently not doing anything of the sort.

        Maybe these types of alternatives are preferable for some of us. I have a sketchy knee *and* managed to injure my right foot the last time I tried to engage in actual sprinting activity. Which was three years ago. The injury is long gone, but I was discouraged from doing them again.

    3. How about stairs? I would imagine spriting stairs would be simialr to hill-sprints if you have access..

    4. I prefer to sprint outside no matter what the weather is like. Found a local park and I’ve been sprinting in the snow or patches of grass. I tried vibrams in the snow and my toes got numb so I switched to trail runners and the sprint sessions are awesome! If you don’t mind the snow flying around, I’d say its worth a try. I just do shorts and a t shirt. I guess it’s comparable to a 20-30 minute ice bath, but the workout prevents the shivering. Daytime temp around here is usually in the 30’s or 40’s this time of year.

  23. Hi Mark,

    I am currently doing advanced bodyweight cicuits, full body, 3 times a week. I do 2-3 circuits per session. Every circuit busts my ass and really pumps up my heart rate.

    Is this “sprint-esque”?

  24. I’ve been having my martial arts class perform Tabata sprints every week (partially to motivate me to do them as well!). The end goal is to work up to the standard 20 sec work/10 sec rest x8 rounds. I can tell you, everyone is sucking wind by the time we’re done, but i’m loving it! Tonight is the first night we do 8-20 second rounds (but with 30 second rests). Wish us luck!

  25. I’ve been running 60-80 miles per month for the last couple of years at a pace of 9-10 min/miles. I decided to incorporate sprinting last week and did 2, 60 second sprints separated by 2 minutes of jogging in between at the end of a 20 min warmup run. Result: Super soreness on the second day after the sprint, and lasting almost a week! Mind you I run 6 or 7 miles at a stretch at my usual pace with no ill effects at all. I believe that incorporating sprinting will be helpful in achieving a better level of fitness, but the reality was that I was so sore that day to day activities were unpleasant much less sprinting again. So what’s the solution – starting with even shorter sprints of say 30 seconds??

    1. Start off by gradually getting into it – slower the first few sessions, and sprint only 60 yards max. Running endurance as you have for so long takes away from your ability to sprint as much as sitting too much. Start doing some squats – 2x per week, gradually adding weight, until you get at least 6 reps with 1.5x body weight. The soreness will lessen as you adapt, but adapting means less endurance running. Stretch.

      1. I’ll give that a try. I just finished an hour run with 2, 15-20 second sprints in the middle, which was probably more than the 60 yards you recommended. I’ll see how it goes and adjust down if necessary and try doing the squats. Thanks David!

  26. Does really fast walking work – the sort that leaves your muscles burning? Would be useful if you had joint impact problems.

    1. It’s about intensity – you’ve got to be pushing yourself as hard as you can for it to count as a sprint. Though there are alternatives to the stereotypical sprint (simply running as fast as you can). In the article above, if you read under the bold print sections “It works if you go slowly” and “It comes in many forms.” Under the section about slow sprinting, it involves pushing/pulling something heavy so you are moving slowly, but still getting the intensity, and it’s easier on the joints. Under the section for many forms it mentions that sprinting uphill is easier on the joints.

  27. Hey Primal Pals– Grokkers–

    Sprinting from your car to McDonalds for a Big Mac doesn’t count!

    Mark– Thanks for the motivations– this is what’s been missing from my exercise–once a week is not enough–going to ramp up to 3-4 times/week

  28. Hi Mark,

    if i can’t go outside sprinting can i do those exhausting intervalls with a speed rope too? Thx.

    1. In the last section, under the bold print “It comes in many forms” Mark mentions that there are lots of ways to sprint. He even gives a few examples, which certainly does not include all the ways there are to sprint. I’d say your intervals with a speed rope count. In Mark’s e-fitness book Primal Blueprint Fitness, in the section about sprinting he says “Sprinting is about moving as fast as possible and getting the heart rate high quickly. It’s more about
      effort than speed.” and “Maintaining maximum effort is basically as simple as running (or biking, or rowing, etc) as fast as you can and then stopping when you note a drop off.” This again, to me, supports the speed rope counting as a sprint.

  29. Love the dig at our future leaders: “…but even in young adults with an intellectual disability, …”

    1. Does hitting the “fire” button really fast count sprinting? 😉

    2. I’m sorry, but I don’t see the dig at our future leaders in that comment. The link goes to an article with the title “The influence of sprint interval training on body composition, physical and metabolic fitness in adolescents and young adults with intellectual disability: a randomized controlled trial.”

  30. Now you know why Mark moved to southern California, even though he is from Maine. He can run sprints outside all year. He avoids the the cold feet, ankles, and achilles tendons. He avoids the lower leg under use and inflexibilities that come with walking in boots for a long winter.

    In the north unless you have access to an indoor heated building with enough space to sprint you can’t do it. Unless you stay on top of exercising and stretching the lower legs only after they are sufficiently warm (which may talk a sauna) you can’t sprint.

  31. Just finished Spin Class and it was a sprint class. Felt nauseated most of the class, but I did it! Then, 2 of my crazy spin buddies who are training for a triathlon, got me to swim with them, even though I still felt sickly. (I managed 12 x 50 and cool down.) Glad I did it. Felt so much better than I thought I would. Sprinting works! (I’m over age 50, and getting lots of compliments.) I must be in a spin class to actually “sprint,” however, because I need the instructor to push me past my comfort zone. Our spin instructor happens to be a triathlon coach too, so she really knows her stuff and makes it a blast. Thanks for the reinforcement, Mark–I’ll think of this post when I’m dying in next Monday’s spin class!

  32. During the winter I try to do Treadmill Sprints as I call them at least once a week. Heard Relentless Roger talk about them a while ago. Turn the treadmill off, and push it as fast as you can. Use whatever intervals you like. At the top of the minute, do 10, 20, or 30 counts, then rest to next minute. See if you can do 6 then 8 sets. Once you are up to 8, increase count, which will decrease rest. (I count when my Left foot hits the TM.)

    Good luck, these are very hard.

  33. I disagree that women can’t get big and bulky. I think it depends on how you develop muscle mass. I could be a body builder the way I beef up so fast! LOL

  34. The problem is, sprinting can be very hard on the joints, tendons and ligaments.

    A slow and controlled, high intensity resistance training program performed 1-3 times a week will provide all the benefits of sprinting without imparting any of the potential harm.

    Fat loss is best achieved via a healthful diet. There is no need to rely on exercise for fat loss at all if your diet is sound.

  35. I wish sprinting could catch on and be as trendy as distance running.

    I desperately want to setup a Sprint club or something in Austin and see if we can’t get a nice community going.

    1. I am so ridiculously out of shape, and would feel slightly embarassed to attempt sprinting in front of other people. That said, for some odd reason, a Sprint club would be the one kind of workout club that did not terrify me! I’m in ATX, too and would be interested. I think it might attract people to kind of come out of hiding since it seems less daunting than your typical “runner’s club” or trying to join the “more Primal than thou” Tough Mudder types. No offense to either, by the way! Sprinting just seems more….fun?

  36. Sprinting, Jogging, Walking any exercise must be good for the soul and body.

    All the best Jan

  37. Until the risk of frosbite subsides, I’m stuck inside doing burpee sprints. Effective and brutal.

    This spring, I’m investing in a big pair of battle ropes so I can vary the sprint routine. Hills, burpees, flat sprints, and battle ropes should keep me going until everything freezes again.

  38. ”In one study, men and women did three 30 second all-out sprint intervals on the stationary bike with 20 minutes of rest in between each sprint.” Wow, that’s a lot of rest. Is that optimal for the anabolic compound of sprinting?

  39. The article states that DHT is the premiere sex hormone responsible for muscle growth. I thought that T was responsible for muscle growth, not DHT.

  40. I work on the second floor so sometimes I “sprint” up the steps. When I have to go to the 3rd or 4th floor I even sprint up as far as I can up them.

  41. Perfect timing! Getting ready for sprints later this afternoon.
    I have found it is much more enjoyable if you have a training partner to push you, and if you change the method each week. One of my favourites is wrapping a rope around the other person’s waist and slowing them down to walking pace while they go all out… you can shout motivation from directly behind!

  42. And it is so fun!!! Talk about a runner’s high afterward. I feel like I’m skipping on a rainbow afterward. 🙂

  43. Heavy sled? How about a jogging stroller with a tiny toddler and some firewood in the back! On a hill! Done and done.

  44. So, here’s a question about what qualifies as sprinting:

    Are burpees sprinting? Specifically, 10 sets of 10 over 10 minutes. That works out to 30 seconds of work, 30 rest.

    How about kettle bell swings, similar type thing, 10 sets of 10 over 10 minutes?

    What about jumping rope fast? Box jumps?

    It seems that these meet the criteria of being just intense bursts of hard work.

    Any thoughts appreciated.

    1. Yes. I live in one of the snowiest places in the world in upstate NY. For my sprinting in the winter I do jump roping …specifically double jumps. Do about 300 of those in different intervals and you will get a good sprint workout.

  45. What about skipping? Does that do all the same things if you do high intensity intervals of it?
    I like to skip most days is that bad because you said not to sprint more than once a week?

  46. I think anything that really gets your heart rate up such as skipping, burpees, etc would have the same effect. One you could do in the house is speed skaters, where you jump from side to side. Just look on youtube for – tabata speed skater
    When doing tabata exercises I always think it is easy for the first couple of sets and feel shattered by the end.

    1. Hmmmm, I wonder if the “speed skater” type of movement would get rid of what I call jodhpurs, a bump of fat at the top of my thigh. I know us women are supposed to be a bit more bumply than men but I don’t like the way it looks on ME, ahahahahaha. Thanks for the idea Anne D.

  47. My heart is pacemaker-dependant. Does the advice to sprint apply also to me? It can certainly adapt my rate but is it still good for my heart muscle under artificial stimulation?

  48. Okay, okay! You’re right. I need to add the sprints back into my routine. Once they were a weekly key activity, then I got out of the habit and lost my sprint machine and never got a new one. I’m still a little too out of shape to run the track. I’d kill myself. I was a low-impact sprinter and weekly sessions made a HUGE difference in my body composition. I gotta get back! Thanks for this!!!

  49. Hmmm…an observation here…I haven’t counted but I would guess that at least 40% of the comments here are people trying to find some way to avoid sprinting..which is exactly why you should sprint!!!!! In my experience, there is absolutely nothing else like sprints. Other things are hard and will make you breath heavily, but nothing else I know of comes close to the total body explosive force workout that proper sprints provide. I play a lot of full-court basketball, run stairs and do explosive movements like cleans and none of those is the same or even close.

    Some context…even as an otherwise primally in-shape person, my first attempts at sprints we pathetic and no one watching from a distance would have thought I was sprinting. It took ,many months to even get to the point where I could sprint without pain in some muscle group. Even now if i do something else for a few weeks (like just biking) it takes a few weeks to get back into sprinting shape.

    Most of the people I see “running” have a severe flaw in their form, like feet not pointed forward, legs out of alignment, etc. and sprinting will quickly reveal those problems. I think the notion that sprinting is hard on the joints is total nonsense..bad form is what is hard on the joints ,whether, walking sprinting or whatever, so fix that.

    Explosive movement is an essential part of almost all athleticism, so arguing about muscle fiber involvement is, again, an attempt to avoid just committing to sprinting.

    Sprinting requires running on the balls of the feet, and that requires a lot of calf/achilles tendon conditioning in itself, so jumping on the ball of one foot forward backwards and sideways (in each direction sideways for each foot) is something I have found to be really helpful.

    It could well be that for most people, it could take more than a year of conditioning before someone can even do a short sprint at all, but that is no reason to not do it. To me, the ability to sprint is an essential indication of youth at any age, and just because it will be the hardest part (perhaps the only hard part) of the primal philosophy is no reason to not do it. It’s kind of disturbing to see people in this community who are quick to embrace immediately pleasurable things like eating butter, turn around and bike, swim, jog etc. away from something that requires a somewhat difficult commitment.

    1. Actually, what most people are trying to avoid is getting injured, which is definitely a risk with regular sprinting – even with proper form. Not to mention, sprinting isn’t an option for many people during the winter months when snow and ice are covering the ground. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with viable alternatives, as Mark mentioned several in his post.

    2. Right on Superchunk. So well said. Sprinting is unlike any other form of explosive activity. It’s so taxing and yet, so good. Keep sprinting. I know I will.

    3. No, it is just people trying to figure out a way to sprint when the sidewalks are covered in ice!!

    4. Thanks for some excellent points. I’m the 75 year old who posted on 1/23 re: alactic sprints in the sand with poles. That’s my thing, but rowing machine, bike, bike ergometer, and cross country ski machines are all suitable for sprinting for people with physical issues. Sprinting a lot on hard surfaces is not a good idea in my opinion, especially if you are not young. One needs to be able to do it up to one’s personal max and protect the body at the same time.

      Your point about the various expressions of sprint avoidance is well taken, but I see this as the flip side of turning sprinting, which can be exhilarating fun, into some form of self-imposed torture. Tabatas are the poster boy for this kind of sprinting: excessive exertion interval, way too short recovery interval, and too many reps. Check that cortisol level, bro! Absolutely no need to do it that way.

      Mark needs to do a post about “How to Sprint” that guides disoriented PBers progressively toward achieving the maximum benefits of sprinting with minimum risks and side effects.


  50. We just discovered a website and app called 12 minute athlete. Doing the randomly picked exercises about 4 to 5 times a week. Love it! All done indoors and seems like it qualifies as sprints.

  51. Interval training is great. For us guys 60 and older, all out sprinting can cause your Achilles heel to snap, then you are in rehab for a LONG time. May not be worth the risk, but if you’re going to do so starting out doing a few at half pace then incrementally increasing the speed is probably a good idea.

    1. As an “only” 50y.o. guy who witnessed a tennis opponent’s Achilles snap, I’m super cautious–and always start slowly after a decent warm up. Good advice.

  52. Think my sprinting will improve if I could improve my pelvic floor muscles… after 4 babies, sprinting and trampolining require concentration to ‘switch on’ the right muscles!

  53. Sprinting is the best. A nice motivator for all-out sprinting is the IPhone app JogRunSprint which can be downloaded for free on Apples appstore. It uses the 10-20-30 technique which means you jog for 30 seconds, run for 20 seconds and spriiiiiiint for 10 seconds. This is repeated several times. Awesome!

    1. I would be wary of anything calling itself a “scientific” workout. It sounds like the exact opposite of fun.

      I doubt prehistoric/paleo societies engaged in “gruesome combinations of sprinting and resistence training” unless they absolutely had to, i.e., negotiating natural disasters, fighting off predators and rival tribes, etc.

      This idea of “working out” and burning calories is a VERY modern one. Movement was a natural part of hunter-gatherers’ lives, not a separate activity they undertook to prepare them for what they already did, if that makes any sense at all.

      I’ll bet they played games and danced a lot, though. 🙂

  54. I love sprinting because it makes me feel like I am a kid again 🙂

    As a kid I sprinted all the time without thinking about it.
    As an adult (I am reaching 40 y.o this year), I feel the same: while sprinting, I don’t think about anything, the mind is sort of shut down or on stand-by and your body takes over. Awareness without the inference of the usual train of thoughts is greatly enhanced while I am sprinting.

    It is a no-brainer, we are meant to sprint and feel good about it.

  55. Do some sprints while jogging on beach at Mark’s suggestion and up the stairs (30-40 steps from beach to street). Real workout though is up Signal Hill! Uphill sprinting truly gets me a-huffin’ and a-puffin! Often they’re very short sprints because my heart’s hammering so it scares me, and I don’t know if that’s healthful? Didn’t Jim Fixx croak that way?

  56. i usually go for a walk in the woods and in the middle, when warmed up , i put into a series of sprints from tree to tree, from stone to road , etc. makes my walk more fun and satisfying also for my mood. sometimes i do frog jumps uphill and that is tough

  57. Might be worth pointing out that, according to the relevant study, the rise in dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is acute rather than chronic….My first thought was, “Crap, so it’s going to make me bald?”

  58. Your article has inspired me to start today! Have done 10 x 20 second sprints! Half killed me …. But feeling really positive!

  59. Thanks, Mark. This post really spoke to me. I definitely need to do sprints 2 or 3 times a week, as opposed to once a week – sometimes.

  60. I am getting back in to cycling, after reading this I put my cycle in to the turbo trainer and warmed up for 10 minutes and then every 55 second’s sprinted for 5 second’s 20 times. Is great for me as I don’t have much time with work and idea to do during the winter.
    I thought of adding 2 stone of weight to my bikes panniers (The weight I have lost in 10 months more or less) as I live on the top of a steep hill and cycle up and down twice at a faster pace than normal!

  61. Has anyone tried a HIIT type routine done w/ compound barbell movements (squats, press, bench press, a deadlift variation, etc.)?

    Mark mentioned 20 rep squats at the end of the article, but I’m wondering if that type of thing has been/could be incorporated along with or maybe even in place of sprinting (in a pinch) and incorporate upper body movements as well. I’m aware of barbell complexes but I’m looking into something more specific to strength and hypertrophy. I’ve tried HIT but I don’t think that provides the repetitive metabolic work / protein synthesis signal that something like a tabata sprint protocol would provide (and which I’m guessing is really the secret to all the benefits).

    FWIW, the closest I’ve tried to a “tabata” like protocol with heavy weights is something called “cluster sets” and got some great short-term results, probably the best ever, and I’m a long-time fan of moving iron. Problem was the long workouts lead to staleness (psychological if not physical) so I’m looking for a protocol like that but more time-efficient.

    Anyone aware of / experimented with that type of training?


    1. Tabata back squats — 20/10/4

      Once a week on my “sprint day” I do one or two sets.

      I use tabata pro app on iPhone ; other good video timers free on YouTube

      I do low intensity warmup first on elliptical or treadmill.

      Start with empty bar back squat (front, dumbbell or BW also options) — try to get 10 reps on each 20 second work phase.

      The goal is to go fast to push heart rate and respiratory rate as far as you can.

      If you can do 12 or more ass to the grass reps on all 8 sets and are not gasping for air when done, add 10 or 20 pounds to bar next time.

      I posted links to a few random YouTube examples on my website.

      I am able to do 95 pounds now but can only get 6 or 7 reps on the last 2 sets, however I know I have pushed myself as hard as I could.

      Mark, as usual, is spot on here in this post; it is the only ‘cardio’ I routinely do, but a few times when I have tested my endurance, I am pleasantly surprised with better cardio respiratory reserves each time ; I believe it compliments my heavy lifting squat and deadlift days.

      Tabata is the perfect combination of intensity and short breaks — when you are breathless or weak you can push yourself to the 20 second point because ‘it’s only 20 seconds’…… Midway through the set if you feel like quitting, it is easy to tell yourself “keep going — only 90 seconds left”…

      1. One more thing:

        I have experimented recently with ‘ tabata farmers carry ‘ — walk briskly with barbell plate or kettle bell — use heavy weight that you can barely carry for 30 or 40 paces — set them down to take break for about 5 good breaths then repeat till your grip or breath gives out….

      2. Thanks Joe, I am planning to integrate your “Tabata Squats” idea into my weekly workout rotation. BTW, I checked out your website and noticed that you use Starting Strength methodology for your heavy lifting. I’ve made great gains from SS, and maybe even more importantly I think the way they teach the lifts is the safest way to effectively perform them.

        What are the “BBS” negatives you mention?

        1. Ripptoe’s squats and deadlifts are the mainstays of my heavy lifting.

          BBS is the book Body By Science — since I recently had surgical repair of my ruptured my biceps tendon and had an old AC shoulder joint surgery repair that will never be normal, my surgeon and physical therapist recommended light weight, high rep negatives for my chest, shoulders bi’s and tri’s to avoid future injury — so I incorporated his recommendation with the fundamentals of Starting Strength and BBS (‘time under load’ and ‘inroading’) and decided to focus on 7 to 10 second negatives (see Youtube for examples of BBS slow reps) on bicep dumbbell curls, military press, bench press, tricep overheads and other shoulder raises — I use a weight that I can handle for at least 60 seconds and push myself to get 90 to 120 seconds time under load per set. I do multiple sets with a minute break to the point where I can’t continue the slow reps for 60 seconds; once a week.

          It is working well from a pain perspective and I am experiencing less AC joint grinding ; my shoulders seem more stable.

  62. I find I get good results from to randomising my sprints – sometimes running, sometimes swimming, skipping (jumping rope) or bag/pad-work (punches &/or kicks).

    I do a sprint session when I feel particularly energetic or if I don’t have time for a longer workout usually every 7-10 days, but sometimes more, sometimes less frequently. Get a good buzz this way.

    A strange thing I found when I started running sprints was how it hit my lower biceps from pumping my arms – I’m pretty fit and do a fair bit of punch training with martial arts, so I was surprised that this was a previously unused muscle.

  63. For all those in northern, snowy places, why not get some x-country skis or put on some snowshoes. If you really feel the need/desire to sprint (running) maybe get some track shoes with the little spikes. How about sprint shoveling the driveway after a dump. That will get the heart pumpin. As many above have said; there are many way to “sprint”. No need to restrict or confine yourself to being inside. Have fun.

  64. I’m 75 years old, and I do maximum intensity sprints in soft sand at the beach using Nordic trekking poles. I think this is the absolute best and most productive exercise of all the various things I do to keep my aging body vital and functional. I have both objective and subjective reasons for saying this, and, with apologies up front for the length of my comment, I am going to try to make it clear why I believe so strongly in this form of exercise.

    First, sand is obviously not essential for sprinting, but it is an ideal surface because it virtually eliminates shock to joints, absorbs more horsepower than any other running surface, and produces a unique adaptation since no two footstrikes are identical. So much for sand.

    I’ve been walking and running on the beach with trekking poles for almost nine years. Trekking poles actively engage arms, shoulders and back and transform forward locomotion into pretty much a full-body exercise. Sprinting with trekking poles adds to the quality of the exercise, but one needs to be progressive in using poles: get comfortable walking and then running before sprinting with poles. So much for poles.

    I’m a little uncomfortable when the term “sprinting” is not defined. Confusion reigns. A fellow geezer acquaintance talks about doing a 3-minute “sprint” up the hill to his house. I try not to let him see me roll my eyeballs.

    Here is my definition when sprinting is done with the legs: (Cycling or rowing require their own definitions.) A walking pace is about 2 strides per second. A running pace is about 3 strides per second. A sprinting pace is from 4 to 4.5 strides per second. End of story.

    The “sprinting” Mark is talking about in his post is obviously a form of interval training. In any interval training there are three big questions: (1) How long should the active exertion interval last? (2) How long should the recovery interval be? And (3) how many repetitions should be performed? Controversy abounds.

    Because I do ALACTIC sprinting, these questions answer themselves quite definitively for me. Alactic (without lactic acid) exercise is exercise that primarily engages the phosphagen anaerobic energy pathway. The phosphagen energy pathway utilizes ATP stored in muscle cell mitochondria and ATP quickly converted from adjacent creatine phosphate (CP). This energy system is only engaged when highest intensity effort is summoned – as in flat-out sprinting. When this energy pathway is engaged, no lactic acid is produced, which means the muscles accumulate no contraction-fighting protons. But, this system can only provide enough ATP for about 8-14 seconds of all-out effort. When the phosphagen pathway becomes exhausted, the glycotic pathway (converting glycogen to ATP + lactate anaerobically) has to carry the full load of producing muscular contraction. Protons start to accumulate and maximum work output begins to drop off.

    This physiology determines the length of the active exertion interval for me. By experience, I’ve learned that I can go flat out for 50 strides (about 12 seconds) before I can feel myself start to slow down a little. So I go 50 strides as hard as I can and then stop.

    Why stop? My exercise goal is power and speed. Flat out sprinting causes my body parts to move through their greatest range of motion with the greatest force and speed of which I am capable and thereby produces optimal disruption of all involved muscle sarcomeres. When my body rebuilds, it rebuilds for maximum power and speed. That’s the theory. In my subjective experience it works.

    After stores of ATP are exhausted it takes the body anywhere from 90 to 180 seconds to fully replenish ATP and CP. This replenishment period determines the recovery interval. I keep moving at a walking pace and check my recovery time so as not to zone out and exceed 3 minutes. With experience one can easily feel when one is ready to go again.

    I repeat this cycle (usually from 4 to 6 times) until, even with full recovery of energy stores, I can’t go full speed anymore. This happens not due to lack of ATP but because the series of flat out sprints have disrupted (broken down) a sufficient number of muscle fibers to make the previous level of work output unavailable. Good time to stop.

    When one builds up to this routine gradually and systematically, there are NO sore muscles the next day. One walks and even runs normally, but sprinting is not going to be a happening thing. Because I am older, it takes me 4-5 days to fully recover and be ready to do it again, but even younger people should give it 3 days.

    Unlike Tabatas or flat-out 200-yard sprints that generate major agony, I find these short, hard sprints exhilarating and invigorating. They are fun. Part of it, I am sure, is being able to scream down the beach at age 75 like I was still in my 20s. But I believe part of it is just inherent. People were mos def born to sprint! Hoo-yah! Do it!

    Okay. One more thing. One of the biggest problems facing older people is sarcopenia, the progressive loss of muscle mass as they age. Loss of muscle mass has multiple negative health consequences. In typical sarcopenia, Type 1 (slow twitch) muscle fibers tend to be preserved. It is the Type 2 (fast twitch) muscle fibers that are disproportionately lost because older people stop doing the activities that stimulate Type 2 fibers.

    Maximum intensity alactic sprint intervals, especially with the upper body engaged using poles, is in my opinion, among the ultimate Type 2 muscle fiber building/preserving activities one can engage in. Feel great now. Feel great later.

  65. I do them at work on the stairs that lead to the second floor and I’ll do them on my bike when I ride the rollers. Tried to do them outdoors but I am not accustomed just yet to sprinting with my Vibrams.

  66. It’s winter in NYC, so I broke down and joined a (super cheap) gym, and I’ve been trying to sprint on the treadmill but I get tired and bored so I’ll do approx 3 30 second sprints, then grab my mat and do some planks or something, and repeat with sprinting and mat work for about 20 minutes.

    I feel like it works (I’m getting more toned) but people are SO confused by me at the gym. Should I be sprinting for longer durations, and is it better to do other workouts on other days?

    I am not athletic at all and could use advice!

  67. I see the terms “chronic cardio” a lot, but what does that mean exactly? I actually jogged today for 20min at an easy pace of ~5 mph– is that chronic cardio? Bc it was low-level…
    Also, how do you do sprints? I have been doing 30sec walking, 30 sec sprints repeated 8 times on the treadmill but I don’t feel as “tired” afterwards (although I feel it the next day!). Does that mean I’m doing them wrong?

    1. Second part first:
      Sprinting is giving maximal effort for a short time. If you go at that intensity continuously for more than a minute when your life does not depend on it, that’s not max effort and intensity. Not being tired 5 or ten minutes after a sprint session is part of the point–less time, energy, and effort, same or greater benefits. Soreness means your muscles are dismantling damaged fibers for the purpose of replacing them with stronger, more resilient ones. You’re doing them right.

      Mark has multiple posts on chronic cardio, and now a podcast, too.

      “Chronic cardio” is doing medium- or medium-high-intensity exercise for a relatively long period of time, and then doing it again before your body has recovered. And again, almost every day, never allowing enough recovery time between your (long) workouts. Chronic cardio is running 10+, 15+ miles per day, 5+ days per week, at 70-80% of your race pace.

      Chronic cardio is expending lots of energy over a long period of time (an hour or three), which makes you tired and hungry afterwards. Food is more energy-dense than exercise. Muscles build, and moreover, repair themselves by first *destroying* the damaged or inadequate fibers and then building new, stronger ones in their place. The dismantling phase involves inflammation. Acute inflammation is usually good, and often a part of the healing process; chronic inflammation is bad, causing much damage and poor health. Chronic cardio is going for yet another long, up-tempo run before your muscles have repaired, before the inflammation has subsided.

      Chronic cardio is chronic inflammation and gradual overuse damage induced by exercising relatively hard for too long, too often, persistently.

      20 minutes at an easy 5mph (=12 minute mile) on foot is not chronic cardio. 200 minutes per day, every day, at a 7 minute mile pace definitely is. Multi-day backpacking trip? Probably not. A five, six hour persistence hunt once a week? Not chronic at all. 3, 4 times a week? Depends who you are.

      1. Thanks, that helped a lot!
        I was wondering though, is it useless running 5mph for 20 min-should I just have sprinted for 4min instead:P?
        I have heard how endurance running builds different muscles than sprinting (slow-twitch vs fast-twitch muscles or something like that), and it’s better to get leaner muscles through endurance running than sprinting, in which case I might start incorporating low-level cardio with my sprints. Any thoughts on this?

  68. I do a kind of burpee ladder sence its cold and icy out. I start with ten then rest. Then nine and rest…… tell one. I give myself a minute to do the set then what evers left is my rest time. Its an ass kicker for me.

  69. So if I wanted do sprints on the treadmill and do it progressively (get better over time), what’s should I set as my program?

    Something like: 3 times a week, 5 sprints of 30 seconds followed by 3 minute rest, and try to increase my sprint pace every few weeks? (that’s a complete guess, I’m just looking for advice along these lines)


  70. During the summer I tried to get into sprinting. I chose a field near my house and tried to just run across it as fast as I could (after a warm-up jog across at about half speed), stop to catch my breath, then turn around and do it again. At least that was the plan. In reality the warm-up is fine, but then the first real sprint makes me very nauseated and light headed. I’d normally wait until I felt a little better and try to sprint several more times, but I felt so sick that I couldn’t stick with it until my muscles were actually tired. I tried for several weeks but it didn’t seem to be improving. I’ve read some of the articles on here about the benefits of sprinting, and I believe it, but the feeling of being either about to puke or about to pass out is a very strong motivator for me NOT to sprint. Any ideas?

  71. I use my rebounder to sprint, I like to do x2 day 15 min sessions with aprox 8 sprints for as long as I can go( getting better, think its around 30 sec sprints). Do you think sprinting on a rebounder is a good method?


  72. Mr. Marino — with all do respect, you can certainly do sprints outside in the winter healthily down into the lower 30s, F. Did you ever hear of winter track? I’m from New Jersey and we trained and raced on the track all winter; even shovelling the track when required. THe key is to warm up with a jog and stretch. you also should wear the right gear. it’s good to wear the tight spandex underneath your track /running suit. You can also wear the thin and flexible skiing thermals. the silk thermals also work well. after a good workout wearing the thermals and a thin sweater (I like brooks, nike tri fit or champion) I am sweating profusely so my muscles are plenty warm to do vigorous sprints). I actually love that time of year because it’s refreshing and I don’t have to worry about heat exhaustion.

    On another note – I highly recommend sprints as prescribed. I was a competitive 800 meter runner in my teens and just keptup that type of training and I’m 39 now. people regularly compliment my build and say I look more like 31 -32. I do 10 -15 min warm up jog at around 8:30 – 9 min/mile pace. THen I do very fast strides (like 80 second 400 meter pace) for 1:30 min X 4 – 5 with 2:00 min jogs in between. I also like to incorporate 50 push ups after the warm-up jog.

    TRust me this works! I carry my 8 year old daughter up the stairs without a problem feel great, carry 5 very heavy bags of groceries in each hand, prob total of 70- 80 lbs, throw both my daughters in the air (about 2 feet above my head) in the pool and catch them) and just do everyday tasks with physical ease. So, as David Bowie said, “just dance”, “Just sprint!”

  73. I have a steep 80 yd hill next to my house. I put on a 40 lb weight vest, and my hiking boots. Using my walking poles (making it a 4 limb “sprint”) I do ten laps up, walking down. My HR hits max training levels after three or four reps. Does this sound the same as sprinting as Mark describes it, I can’t run as it is too hard on my knees at 67.

  74. I do sprinting 3 to 4x a week aside from my regular calisthenics session which is 5x a week, sprinting did improve my over-all physique and the quality of my training when doing calisthenics. I can perform longer, do more reps and I recover faster too.

    My routine would be all out sprint on a 50 meter and rest for 1min then repeat for 5x -that’s on a not so good days (you know when you feel you’re not in the mood)

    But normally I would do 50 meters all out then Jog for 15 sec then 50 meter all out again back to the starting point then do 30 pushups and 20 tuck jumps rest for 2 min then repeat for 5x to 10x, I’m planning to add an extra 50 meter soon. Over-all sprinting is good, I don’t get tire easily, better recovery, and definition to my body.

  75. Hi Mark. There seem to be alot of different time intervals that are fitted under the HIIT umbrella. I see a spectrum which ranges from full-out sprinting (with necessarily full recovery intervals) to steady-state aerobics. i seem to err toward the full-out sprinting end as being the best bang for buck when it comes to health purposes. but there is quite a big following for programs which use rest periods that are less than half the time of the activity interval. it seems the mantra becomes to reach sensations of completely destroying oneself. and i am not sure how this affects your long-term health. i am wondering how you see these various time intervals and how can make sure we are staying in a positive zone when doing this stuff. best,

  76. Most dork CrossFit people I see sprinting are FAT. The endurance athletes are LEAN. HIIT is pure salesmanship. It is USELESS for fat loss , bad for Cushing’s patients and diabetics.